Redefining Justice: Addressing the Individual Needs of Victims and Witnesses

Article excerpt

This report, led by victims' champion Sara Payne, was published in November 2009 and examines the way that frontline services meet the needs of victims and witnesses in the criminal justice system. The report draws heavily on meetings and interviews with victims and witnesses as well as staff and volunteers from the organisations that support them. The report both makes recommendations intended to improve existing practice and identifies areas where further thinking and service development is required.

The report makes 14 recommendations. These include:

* The needs of victims should be addressed by a multi-agency approach, with the relevant agencies required to participate. The report gives the example of multi-agency risk assessment conferences, which operate in the area of domestic abuse, building a full risk assessment and putting in place action to support and protect the victim and family.

* Decisions about special measures (the arrangements for some witnesses to give evidence in a different way in court) should be made well in advance of the hearing. Decisions should be made on the individual circumstances of the witness and not simply based on characteristics such as age. Further advice and guidance is needed about the use of special measures to ensure a balance between the rights of defendants, the costs of the court process and the needs of victims and witnesses.

* The terminology used to explain sentences and the language spoken in court when sentence is passed should be amended to ensure that it is clear and can be understood by the general public. …